Introduction: This study used social network theory to explore the role of social support and social networks in health information–seeking behavior among Korean American (KA) adults.
Methods: A descriptive qualitative study using a web-based online survey was conducted from January 2013 to April 2013 in the U.S. The survey included open-ended questions about health information–seeking experiences in personal social networks and their importance in KA adults. Themes emerging from a constant comparative analysis of the narrative comments by 129 of the 202 respondents were analyzed.
Results: The sample consisted of 129 KA adults, 64.7% female, with a mean age of 33.2 (SD = 7.7). Friends, church members, and family members were the important network connections for KAs to obtain health information. KAs looked for a broad range of health information from social network members, from recommendations and reviews of hospitals/doctors to specific diseases or health conditions. These social networks were regarded as important for KAs because there were no language barriers, social network members had experiences similar to those of other KAs, they felt a sense of belonging with those in their networks, the network connections promoted increased understanding of different health care systems of the U.S. system, and communication with these network connections helped enhance feelings of being physically and mentally healthy.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the important role that social support and personal social networks perform in the dissemination of health information for a large ethnic population, KAs, who confront distinct cultural challenges when seeking health information in the U.S. Data from this study also illustrate the cultural factors that influence health information acquisition and access to social support for ethnic minorities. This study provides practical insights for professionals in health information services, namely, that social networks can be employed as a channel for disseminating health information to immigrants.